Thoughts on Turgeon's 'fun' approach, Keenan McCardell's impact and Terps in the NFL championship games

Baltimore Sun reporter Jeff Barker, producer-editor Jonas Shaffer and deputy sports editor David Selig weigh in on three topics from the past week in Maryland sports.

What do you think of Mark Turgeon’s request to the men's basketball team to relax and have more “fun” during games?

Jeff Barker: People may scoff at it, but not me.

It’s not THE answer, of course. But playing with a more relaxed attitude – enjoying the game they’ve loved since they were kids – sure can’t hurt.

We all know college basketball can be stressful for players at this level. But I think there is a particular sort of pressure on this team – and on Turgeon. The coach and his players may be feeling that in ways they don’t acknowledge, perhaps not even to themselves.

After two Turgeon years without an NCAA tournament berth, this is the season it’s supposed to happen. The team’s internal clock – and certainly the fans’  – is ticking. Last year’s heralded freshman class has had a season to adjust to the college game and know they are supposed to step up.

But early-season losses – such as the one against Boston University— create doubt that can seep into the team's collective psyche. It’s hard enough overcoming the other team without also having to surmount your own anxiety.

Granted, Maryland also needs to be a more formidable inside team. But playing with a relaxed attitude doesn’t mean you can’t also be tough around the basket. Some people seem to associate “fun” with “soft.”

What Maryland coaches want is for Terps players to relax enough to get into that worry-free zone where the outside world recedes and they just play basketball.

Of course, it all raises the question of whether this team has been playing tight all season and – if so – whether this should have been addressed earlier.

It’s not easy trying to divine the thought patterns of college kids. It's not enough to be a basketball tactician. You've also got to be Sigmund Freud.

Why should Maryland fans hope Keenan McCardell turns out to be like Cam Cameron?

Jonas Shaffer: If you also happen to be a Redskins fan, this isn't some kind of good-natured tease. This isn't about a forced-out assistant coach getting a job just as the team that fired him wins a Super Bowl. The Redskins are bad. Lose-to-the-Falcons bad.

This is an examination of what McCardell, a former Washington assistant and, as of Thursday, newly minted Maryland wide receivers coach, could become in the college game. One exemplar, strange as it might sound to Ravens fans, is Cameron.

Unlike McCardell, the former Ravens offensive coordinator had previous college coaching experience when he was named to the same post at LSU last February. He had most recently coached at Indiana more than a decade ago. In recruiting years, though, that might as well be the Jurassic era.

Having spent the better part of the millennium in the NFL, it's fair to say Cameron probably landed in Baton Rouge with little idea of how to recruit the 21st-century student-athlete and just as little of a recruiting foothold in the region.

It's surprising, then, to look at how well Cameron has recruited this year. Yes, he's far from the best recruiter on the Tigers' staff. Yes, LSU football sells itself. But Cameron has been a lead recruiter of four of the Tigers' 18 commits, including the nation's top running back.

At Maryland, McCardell will be asked to evaluate and recruit prospects, as every able-bodied assistant in college football is, but we probably won't know whether he's any good at it until this time next year. What we can probably surmise is that every kid he talks to will want to know how McCardell might help him get to the NFL. Like Cameron, he has been there, and recently. For impulsive 17-year-olds old enough remember McCardell as a guy who played for a long, long time in the league, that could make all the difference.

Are we going to see a former Terp in this year's Super Bowl?

David Selig: It won't deliver the matchup our readers want to see, but I'm going to say yes.

There's one Terp playing in each of Sunday's conference championships -- New England Patriots defensive lineman Joe Vellano and San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.

I've been of the mind all year that the 49ers are the best team in the NFC. And there's just too much talk about the Seahawks being unbeatable at home. So, San Francisco will be that team that plays its way into the Super Bowl from the wild-card round.

Both teams have great defenses, but having big, tough receivers like Davis and old pal Anquan Boldin gives the 49ers as good a chance of anybody to compete with those Seahawks defensive backs.

You've probably already heard and read enough about the Broncos-Patriots matchup, so I'll just say this about Vellano: For a guy who went undrafted, he's been an important piece on an underrated defense.

He's played in every game this year -- started eight of them -- and with the Pats losing Vince Wilfork to an injury, he's done a lot more than many people expected.

Whomever you rooting for, enjoy the games this weekend. (And if you missed it earlier, check out the season recap we did for every Terp in the NFL.)

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